18 July 2017

On the Defender of the Holy Sepulchre, Duke Godfrey de Bouillon

On this day in the year 1100, Godfrey de Bouillon died in Jerusalem at the age of about forty after suffering from some sort of illness. One of the leaders of the First Crusade who set out to reclaim the city of Jerusalem from the Muslims (who first took it from the Christians in 637 - this is often forgotten), Duke Godfrey became the ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, ruling for only about a year, after the city fell to the Crusaders on 15 July 1099 after 462 years under Muslim control.
In his Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, William of Trye described Godfrey in these words:
Godfrey was the eldest of them by birth and the foremost in his inner qualities as well.... He was a religious man, mild mannered, virtuous, and God­fearing. He was just, he avoided evil, he was trustworthy and dependable in his undertakings. He scorned the vanities of the world, a quality rare in that age and especially among men of the military profession. He was assiduous in prayer and pious works, renowned for his liberality, graciously affable, civil, and merciful. His whole life was commendable and pleasing to God. His body was tall and although he was shorter than the very tall, yet he was taller than men of average height. He was a man of incomparable strength, with stout limbs, a manly chest, and a handsome face. His hair and beard were a medium blond. He was considered by everyone to be most outstanding in the use of weapons and in military operations.
That William did not exaggerate the piety of Godfrey can be seen in what he said after his election as the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem on 22 July 1099. Not only did he refuse to wear a golden crown because Jesus wore only a crown of thorns, he also refused the title of king because Christ Jesus is the only true King of Jerusalem. He took instead the title of Advocatus Sancti Supulchri ("Defender of the Holy Sepulchre," the tomb of Christ) and, for this reason, Godfrey is the founder of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, of which I am a Knight. Regrettably, those who succeeded him did not always demonstrate a similar humility.
Godfrey was respected not only by Christians, but also by Muslims, one of whom noted Godfrey was "satisfied with such a modest apparel, without rugs or silk drapes and without a royal attire". Such was Godfrey's fame in the Middle Ages that he was soon numbered among the Nine Worthies, of whom three were pagan (Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar), three Jewish (Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeus), and three Christian (Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey).
The tomb of Duke Godfrey de Bouillon was destroyed in 1808.
The creation of the Jerusalem Cross, the symbol of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, is attributed to Duke Godfrey:
The meaning of the five crosses varies, mostly commonly being held to recall the Five Wounds of Christ, or the Cross of Christ and the Four Evangelists, or the Cross of Christ and the four corners of the world. The color of the Jerusalem Cross was later changed from gold to red.

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